A Conservative Agenda for Texas Education Reform

Classroom Disciple
Fix the Teacher Retirement System
Reform Texas Teacher Hiring Practices for Long-Term Stability
Religious Exemptions for Teachers
Establish an Office of Inspector General for Education
School Choice
Digital Material Oversight
Ending STARR Testing
Removing Urban Bias from Higher Education
Educational Privacy Standards

Plan developed by Dale Huls


"A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools." - Texas Constitution Article VII, Section1

Amid today's contentious debates surrounding the Texas education system, it's crucial to reflect on the fundamental principles that underpin our commitment to public education. Too often, we overlook the historical context that shaped our educational landscape and defined our constitutional obligations.

The provision of free public education in Texas is not a mere emulation of other states or a federal mandate. Rather, it stems from the visionary foresight of the framers of our 1876 Constitution. Emerging from the aftermath of the Civil War and the challenges of Reconstruction, these architects recognized the pivotal role of education in securing the liberties and rights of our people.

Embedded within Article VII, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution is a solemn duty entrusted to our Legislature: to establish and maintain an efficient system of public free schools. This constitutional mandate underscores the importance of knowledge dissemination and underscores education's indispensable role in safeguarding the freedoms and rights of Texans.

While historically interpreted as a call for government-run institutions, this commitment extends beyond mere institutional frameworks. It speaks to a broader imperative of ensuring accessible education for all, regardless of socio-economic status or background.

In contemporary discourse, the debate over "school choice" has become a focal point, reflecting divergent views on education governance and parental empowerment. On one side, concerns about resource allocation and accountability in government-run institutions are paramount. On the other hand, advocates champion parental choice and innovation in educational delivery.

However, amidst this debate, we must not lose sight of the multifaceted challenges facing our education system today. Beyond the dichotomy of school choice, we must address issues ranging from teacher support to student well-being. As we embark on educational reform in Texas, it's imperative to consider the holistic needs of our education community, not just those of administrators.

Our agenda for educational reform will tackle these pressing issues head-on. By prioritizing the voices of teachers, parents, and students, we aim to fulfill our constitutional mandate while adapting to the demands of a modern educational landscape.

Together, let us reaffirm our commitment to providing a quality and accessible education for all Texans, honoring the legacy of our constitutional framers, and securing a brighter future for generations to come.

Dale Huls

Texas Education Reform Agenda

Classroom Disciple: Restoring classroom discipline to teachers is paramount for fostering a conducive learning environment. When teachers have the authority to maintain order and discipline in their classrooms, students are better able to focus on their studies and thrive academically. Clear and consistent disciplinary measures empower educators to address disruptive behavior promptly, ensuring that valuable instructional time is maximized. Moreover, restoring this authority to teachers reinforces mutual respect between students and educators, promoting a positive and respectful school culture. By prioritizing classroom discipline, we prioritize the academic success and well-being of our students, laying the foundation for a more productive and harmonious learning environment. The legislature needs to promote the ability of teachers to oversee classroom discipline rather than school administrators.

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Fix the Teacher Retirement System: The Texas Teacher Retirement System (TRS) is facing significant challenges that directly impact the financial security and retirement prospects of educators across the state. Chief among these challenges is the sustainability of pension benefits, exacerbated by demographic shifts and funding limitations. As the population ages and retiree numbers swell, concerns about the long-term viability of pension funds and the adequacy of benefits for future retirees become increasingly urgent. Moreover, the TRS's financial stability is vulnerable to fluctuations in investment returns and economic uncertainties, potentially leading to funding shortfalls. Additionally, disparities in benefits among different tiers of TRS members and the absence of cost-of-living adjustments create equity issues for retirees. To address these pressing challenges and ensure the TRS's long-term viability, comprehensive reforms and proactive measures are essential. It's imperative to prioritize initiatives that enhance the sustainability of pension benefits, stabilize funding sources, and promote fairness and equity in benefit distributions. Additionally, providing cost-of-living adjustments for retirees should be pursued as a vital component of any reform efforts, without necessitating a Texas Constitutional amendment. By implementing these reforms, we can strengthen the Texas Teacher Retirement System and fulfill our commitment to supporting educators' financial well-being throughout their retirement years.

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Reform Texas Teacher Hiring Practices for Long-Term Stability: Texas teachers currently operate within a system that mandates year-to-year contracts, resulting in annual stress and uncertainty during the contract renewal process. Regardless of the stability of their teaching assignment, teachers must endure the anxiety of contract renewal each year. To address this issue and promote long-term stability in the teaching profession, Texas must reform its teacher hiring practices.

Under the proposed reform, proven senior teachers would be rewarded with longer teaching contracts, providing them with greater job security and reducing the annual stress associated with contract renewal. This reform would recognize the valuable experience and dedication of senior teachers while fostering a more supportive and stable work environment.

By implementing this change, Texas can enhance teacher retention rates, improve job satisfaction, and ultimately benefit students by ensuring continuity and consistency in the classroom. Additionally, providing longer contracts to experienced teachers would incentivize professional growth and development, further enriching the educational experience for students across the state.

Overall, reforming teacher hiring practices to reward senior teachers with longer contracts aligns with Texas' commitment to excellence in education and supports the well-being of educators. It's time for Texas to prioritize the stability and success of its teaching workforce by implementing this necessary reform.

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Religious Exemptions for Teachers: Texas must respect religious exemptions for teachers when it comes to curriculums that conflict with their religious beliefs, particularly regarding the promotion of Critical Race Theory (CRT) or LGBTQ agendas. Teachers should not be compelled to endorse or promote ideologies that contradict their deeply held religious convictions. Upholding religious exemptions ensures that educators are free to teach in a manner consistent with their faith while safeguarding their constitutional rights to religious freedom and expression. By respecting these exemptions, Texas preserves the autonomy and integrity of its educators, fostering an environment where diverse viewpoints are valued and respected in the educational process.

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Establish an Office of Inspector General for Education: Establishing an Office of Inspector General for Education is imperative to ensure that Texas Independent School Districts (ISDs) adhere to state laws and regulations. By providing oversight and enforcement mechanisms, this office would safeguard compliant ISDs from unjust lawsuits initiated by external groups or dissatisfied employees. Moreover, parents deserve an independent entity where they can lodge complaints and trigger thorough investigations into any concerns regarding their children's education. Such an office would not only reinforce accountability and transparency within the education system but also empower parents to actively participate in ensuring the quality and legality of their children's education. Overall, an Office of Inspector General for Education is essential for upholding the integrity of Texas ISDs and fostering trust between educational institutions, parents, and the community at large.

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School Choice: The debate over "school choice" boils down to a clash between those who advocate for maintaining resources for government-run schools and those who champion parental empowerment. Critics fear negative effects on public schools, like funding diversion, lack of accountability, increased segregation, and profit-driven motives in private options.

However, supporters believe in empowering parents to choose the best educational environment for their children. They argue that competition among schools can drive up quality, encourage innovation, and offer diverse options. By prioritizing customization, school choice advocates aim for a more tailored and effective education, leading to efficient resource allocation and cost savings.

Considering Texas's historical context, where challenges like segregation and unequal resources persisted, the establishment of "public free schools" reflected the need for accessible education. Yet, it's important to assess how modernizing this approach to "public free education" could prioritize student-centered learning over institutional interests. Indeed, in today’s modern society, there are many education options not available in historical times. In addition to traditional public schools, parents now have the options of charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, homeschooling, online learning, and micro-schools (teacher pods).

To meet the need cited in Article VII, Section 1, the methods of education need only to provide for a general diffusion of knowledge sufficient to preserve liberty and protect individual rights. This does not require a student to pass an arbitrary STARR test to attain a proper level of education as our founders saw fit. It is up to the parents and the students themselves to decide the level and means of their education.

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Digital Material Oversight: Incorporating digital materials into the oversight functions of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is essential for ensuring a comprehensive evaluation of educational content. Recent instances of Independent School Districts (ISDs) acquiring social justice and anti-American Marxist teachings without adequate scrutiny underscore the necessity for a proactive approach to content review. By expanding its oversight to include digital materials, the SBOE can prevent the adoption of content that deviates from state educational values and standards. This proactive measure not only safeguards the integrity of Texas education but also reinforces the SBOE's commitment to providing students with accurate, balanced, and culturally relevant learning materials.

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Ending STARR Testing: Ending STARR Testing is imperative for shifting the focus from standardized assessments to more comprehensive measures of student success and teacher performance. While school boards must undoubtedly be held accountable for the curriculum taught in their districts, it's equally crucial to establish a system that ties teachers to students, allowing for a nuanced assessment of teacher effectiveness based on individual student outcomes. By moving away from standardized pass/fail testing and embracing simple benchmarking methods and modern analytics, we can foster a learning environment that prioritizes the diverse needs and abilities of every student while ensuring accountability and continuous improvement in teaching practices.

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Removing Urban Bias from Higher Education: Texas must strive to eliminate any bias between college track and vocational track education, ensuring that all students have equitable access to opportunities that align with their interests and aspirations. It is imperative to investigate and rectify any instances of discrimination in college acceptance, particularly between rural and urban students. By fostering an educational system that values and supports both academic and vocational pathways equally, Texas can empower all students to pursue their chosen paths with confidence and success. This commitment to fairness and inclusivity will not only enrich individual lives but also strengthen the fabric of our communities and contribute to the overall prosperity of our state.

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Educational Privacy Standards: Ensuring the privacy and security of our children's data is an urgent priority that requires immediate attention. It is completely unacceptable for any Texas official to endorse or facilitate the collection of children's data through technology. Such actions not only endanger the fundamental rights of our youth but also pose significant threats to their safety and well-being. Any official found complicit in these practices must face swift and decisive consequences, including immediate removal from their position. Texas has a responsibility to safeguard the privacy and dignity of our children, ensuring that their personal information is shielded from exploitation and abuse. Anything less than this commitment would betray our most vulnerable citizens and undermine the trust and integrity of our educational system.

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Less Austin, More Texas

Developed by Dale Huls, candidate for House District 1 (hulsinthehouse.com)